Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Riverstone and Interpret the Future team up again with OpenKnowledge at the Social Business Forum 2016

06 Jul


Now in its ninth year, the Social Business Forum, Europe’s premier speaker and networking event dedicated to social business, will take place in Milan on the 6-7 July 2016. Organised by OpenKnowledge, the management consulting company focused on social and digital transformation, and held once again at the Marriott Hotel in the capital city of fashion and design, SBF16 will bring together features a unique offer of visionary keynote speeches, success stories and discussion panels organized in a Free and Premium Conference. The Free Conference includes the keynote speeches in the mornings of July 6th and 7th delivered by outstanding and internationally-known experts.

The theme of this year’s Social Business Forum is the Platfirm Age: Plug your Business – Play your Future. The focus of many of the keynote presentations will be on how platform-companies, such as Airbnb, Facebook and LinkedIn, have revolutionised traditional business models and developed continuously-evolving structures where value is co-created with users / customers.

All the keynotes will be simultaneously translated by Interpret the Future, the Social Business Forum’s longstanding specialist interpreting partners. This year, the team includes ItF founder members Loredana Nano and Alice Bertinotti. Daniela Negru will also be in the booths helping the team to provide a highly professional conference interpreting service. The project is managed by Robert Dennis, director of Riverstone Language & Communications.

Find out more…

by Robert Dennis

Robert has created an online Business English course on WiziQ. Sign up for the free edition!

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Blended learning maestro Pete Sharma set to make an impact on Milan at the PSA Symposium

31 Aug

Pete Sharma, one of the world’s leading experts on integrating technology into learning, will be “in the shadow of the Madonnina” this autumn as part of the PSA (Pete Sharma Associates) Symposium. The event on October 4th 2012 in Milan is being hosted by the British Consulate-General and sponsored by SMART Technologies, Richmond ELT and Little Bridge. UK Trade & Investment are also supporting the Symposium.

The title of the Symposium is “L’impatto delle nuove tecnologie sull’insegnamento delle lingue straniere” (“The impact of new technology on foreign language teaching”). This symposium builds on the success of similar events in Spain.

The speakers will include Pete and representatives from the sponsors. The exact topics and content are still to be confirmed, but here is a preview of the programme:

Keynote Presentation

Pete Sharma, Pete Sharma Associates Ltd
“New developments in Language Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age”

Pete speaking at a recent ICT Conference
(Photo: British Council)

Technology has changed the teaching and learning of languages. However, technology changes quickly and it is sometimes difficult for teachers to follow new developments. It is not always easy to use new  technology well inside and beyond the classroom. In his talk, Pete Sharma will describe some of the most important recent advances in new technology including m-learning, commercially produced digital materials, the interactive whiteboard and the virtual learning environment in the 21st century

Pete started his EFL career as a business English teacher in Madrid, moving to Finland before returning to the UK. He worked as teacher trainer, Director of Studies and school manager before becoming the Group teacher training and development manager for Linguarama, a business English organisation which is now part of the Marcus Evans group. In his capacity as a member of the Group Pedagogical Unit he inspected schools, taught writing seminars in the Middle and Far East, and helped create and run trainer training courses. He has written extensively about technology in language teaching. Pete recently changed from ESP to EAP, and currently divides his time between lecturing at Oxford Brookes University and on the Warwick University pre-sessional courses, and writing. He keeps a blog on using technology in ELT with co-author Barney Barrett. See:


Luke Baxter & Cathy Smith
Richmond ELT

This is a term that encompasses many of the most important trends in the “digital world” today. Important examples include how tools, entertainment and work have converged onto a single device, so a person can have, say, a compass, a radio and a spreadsheet on their iPad. Another example and one which is very much at the forefront of digital predictions is “the cloud”, where content and computing converge and become accessible “anytime, anywhere and on any device”.

Using examples from Richmond’s Digital Books and Learning Platforms, this presentation will aim to show how convergence is already affecting ELT publishing. Luke and Cathy will show how many of the traditional components of a publisher’s course offering have already converged in a Digital Book that includes the Student’s Book, Teacher’s Book, Workbook and Class Audio. They will also look at how students can access the Learning Platforms to play games, comment on blogs and communicate with their teacher, who in turn can assign trackable tests and homework activities.

Finally, they will attempt to look forward and hazard some guesses as to how convergence will continue to affect ELT publishing. Can every course component converge onto a single device? Will the divide between paper and digital make any sense in the future? Will this mean the end of the printed book? Should ELT publishers view themselves solely as content providers and thus endeavour to provide this content in whatever way best suits the needs and situations of each individual customer?


Valeria Mordenti
Marketing Manager Italy & South East Europe at SMART Technologies
The Interactive Whiteboard and Language Teaching”

SMART created the world’s first interactive whiteboard in 1991 and they remain the world’s leading provider of interactive whiteboards. Incorporated in 1987, SMART has been committed to innovation and excellence for more than 25 years and has provided solutions for the education, higher education, business, government and military communities. More than two million SMART Board interactive whiteboards are used by over 40 million students and their teachers, and SMART products are used in more than 175 countries.


Paul Rogers
Little Bridge
“Making English Irresistible to Young Learners!”

Paul is an award-winning author of over forty books for children, as well as of many well-known materials for the teaching of languages, including for teaching English. He’s an experienced linguist and has been both a primary and secondary teacher, as well as a lecturer in Education (at Goldsmiths College, University of London). Taking examples from Little Bridge, Paul will show how an innovative digital resource can:

1.       build a bridge between the learner and the English speaking world, setting the language in context through 3D animations and virtual reality

2.       build a bridge between traditional teaching methods and the latest computer technology, dealing with grammar, for example, in a painless, natural way.

3.       bridge the gap between work and play by making learning fun through a wide variety of motivating games, songs and activity types.

4.       build a bridge between home and school by providing activities that children will do for pleasure, whilst allowing the school to keep track of everyone’s progress.


Registration and Contact Details

Entry to the Symposium will be free but by invitation only. Delegates will also need to register with the British Consulate-General. If you would like to attend this event, please contact Byron Russell at PSA:

[email protected]

Check the Events page on the PSA website for further details and updates about the Symposium:

You can find out more about Pete Sharma and PSA on their website:


About PSA

Pete Sharma Associates Ltd was founded in October 2008. PSA is an educational consultancy and training organisation for language teachers. PSA runs courses worldwide for teachers of English as a Foreign Language, teacher trainers and academic managers on how to successfully integrate educational technology into their language courses. PSA also advises institutions on hardware and software for language teaching.

PSA has a core team of four directors who are responsible for ensuring that all PSA courses meet the highest standards of quality. The directors keep abreast of educational technology and liaise with the major hardware and software manufacturers and publishers. They use a number of associate trainers, specialised in integrating technology into language courses. Their activities are supported by many associate organisations including The Pyramid Group.


Interested in blended learning? Robert Dennis attended the recent “Digital Transformation in the English Teaching World” event co-hosted by Pearson Longman and the British Council. Read the full  report on the Milan English blog:

The perfect blend? Pearson and the British Council team up for “Digital Transformation in the English Teaching World” 





Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

NetworkMilan welcomes Danielle Dalkie, mobile entrepreneur and PR /Social Media expert

12 Jul

We are delighted to introduce our first guest blogger, Danielle Dalkie, who has a fascinating background as a mobile payments entrepreneur and is currently planning a strategic move to Rome. In this article she talks about her experience in setting up Waspit, a social banking service, and how she plans to use her PR and social media skills in her new life in Italy.

Danielle on the Digital Mission Stand at ad:tech NYC Conference and Expo 2010

Ciao! I am really pleased to be writing for – and I am looking forward to sharing some of my ideas and business experiences with you. I’m also really excited about coming to Italy! I am an Australian who grew up in New Zealand and for the past two years I have been living between London and New York. And now I am moving to Rome!

I am Co-Founder of a startup called Waspit, a social banking platform for students. More specifically, it combines traditional banking features with social platforms to create a more intuitive and enriched experience for users. In essence, Waspit is “Banking 2.0”, and I have been involved in product development (right from the conception of the company) and more recently realigning the product to suit the target market: I have also been doing some business development and I aided the company in raising its first round of venture funding in New York.Waspit is designed not only to provide all the latest banking capabilities including mobile payments, but to enable for the first time a dynamic communication between users, their friends and the merchant on how and where they choose to spend their money.

Waspit lets you plug in all your social media platforms into one place so that you no longer have to manually check-in on Facebook and foursquare or post separate reviews to Yelp, Twitter and your other networks.

Social banking for students

For the more traditional ‘bank-like’ transactions Waspit is accepted in-store and online anywhere MasterCard is accepted; cash can be withdrawn from most ATMs; and students can pay their bills using ACH (Automated Clearing House) or Billpay. The FDIC* insured account also has a traditional routing and account number so students can receive their wages and allowances.

In the social world, students can easily, securely and instantly send and receive money between friends via Facebook, Twitter or mobile phone. Making quick payments in store is as simple as tapping your mobile phone over any MasterCard PayPass terminal. Students can even use the iOS, Android or Facebook apps to split restaurant bills or request money from their parents.

My own background is in public relations and social media, however. I have been involved in developing and implementing customer acquisition strategies in the tech, digital and social sectors. My skills include traditional PR such as managing press releases, publicity, social media, online content, corporate events, conferences and creating brand awareness.

I also specialise in social marketing and developing viral strategies (including guerrilla marketing efforts), as well as many successful viral and online campaigns in the both the US and UK. In addition, I develop comprehensive campaigns which rely heavily on social media and social marketing.

Rome calling (Image: Trevi Fountain by Fod via Wikimedia Commons)

But the big news is… I am relocating to Rome this year and I am currently looking for a suitable position and some cool social media projects to work on (so please get in touch with me if you have something I might be interested in!)

I am also involved in setting up the Rome Business English Network – the first sister group of the Milan Business English Network to be based in another Italian city. (Visit Network Roma for all the latest news about events and networking for people speaking, learning and doing business in English in the eternal city.) have invited me to write a series of blog posts on how mobile commerce is changing the way we interact with companies and its wider implications for the digital economy. I hope you enjoy these articles and find them useful, too!Read Danielle Dalkie’s next guest post, coming soon on
Money in motion: how mobile payments technology is changing the face of retailClick here to find out more about Waspit and social banking.

*Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation: A US federal agency that insures deposits in member banks.

UPDATE (AUGUST 2012): Danielle has recently founded Network Roma, a sister group of the Milan Business English Network. You can become part of Network Roma by joining their group on LinkedIn.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

How to make business more social: the 5th annual Social Business Forum in Milan shows the way

07 Jun

It’s not all doom and gloom in Mario Monti’s Italy: this week in Milan the leading social business event in Europe saw hundreds of delegates descend on the city to discuss ways of making business better for companies and customers. The Social Business Forum 2012 was organised by OpenKnowledge, an international consulting firm that specializes in helping large organizations realize their business potential through open and collaborative approaches based on the Social Business paradigm. With keynotes from the likes of John Hagel, Co-Chairman of the Center for the Edge at Deloitte & Touche and Rawn Shah, Social Business Strategist at IBM, the SBF provided fresh thinking and lively debate, as well as some great networking opportunities.

Discussion and debate at the SBF in Milan

Now in its fifth year, the Social Business Forum has established itself as a regular fixture on the business innovation calendar and continues to attract not only the big name speakers, but an impressive gathering of key players and professionals from companies large and small – not to mention a healthy sprinkling of consultants and freelancers. The sumptuous surroundings of the Marriott Hotel in Milan provided an imposing backdrop to the event.

With an Open Conference running alongside the Premium Conference, the number of people who could enjoy the event was maximised – and everyone had a chance to visit the Expo Pavilion, where leading enterprise social software technologies were showcased.

Rosario Sica and Emanuele Scotti present the Social Business Manifesto

This year the Social Business Forum coincided with the launch of the Social Business Manifesto, a seminal text produced by OpenKnowledge and published with the Harvard Business Review Italia. As well as being a clarion call to business, the Manifesto contains 59 “theses” or propositions that are both observations and challenges for finding new ways of making business more about customers and employees and less about the companies themselves or their managers. (The Manifesto was written in Italian and sections are being published in English at regular intervals.)

Rosario Sica and Emanuele Scotti of OpenKnowledge presented a dialogue on the Social Business Manifesto and the theses, which include such nuggets as “The weak point of knowledge management is the management” and “Organizations react to stimuli in their market with a speed that is inversely proportional to their size”.

The Interpret the Future team

With so many international visitors it was crucial that as many of the insights and ideas being expressed could be shared. To this end, a special mini-project called “Interpret the Future” was established by OpenKnowledge and communications consultant Robert Dennis (the founder and editor of the Milan Business English Network). Interpret the Future brought together a crack team of young interpreters eager to gain additional valuable experience of conference interpreting. The project also aims to help the team explore new ways of promoting themselves as freelance professionals in a highly-specialised field of communication. A blog (called Interpret the Future) was set up by the team and they were able to use the occasion for networking as well.

The Social Business Forum lasted for two very busy days and covered a staggering range of topics related to the central theme of making relationships in business more human and personal and less process-oriented and target-driven.

You can find a wealth of background information and extras relating to the Social Business Forum on the main SBF website.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

What are soft skills?

22 Feb

Improving soft skills

There is a lot of interest currently in soft skills. But what exactly are soft skills and why do you need them? “There’s a saying that hard skills will get you an interview but it’s soft skills that get you a job,” says Debbie Hance of the Association of British Psychologists. Read more about soft skills and emotional intelligence (EQ) in this article from the British Guardian newspaper…

Click here to read “The secret to understanding soft skills” on the Guardian web site…

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Should you use formal or informal language in a job interview?

21 May

Formal or informal?

Getting the balance right between formality and informality when you have an interview can be quite tricky (difficult). In a recent discussion on the Milan Business English Network an MBEN member asked about this important topic: here’s his question – and my reply…

Dear all,

I have been selected for an interview in the Investment Banking sector. I have some doubts regarding the type of language to use during the interview. In fact, I believe that both the informal and the formal ones have their own specific advantages. First of all, speaking with a formal and technical language makes you more professional but you will probably make  a higher number of mistakes. Conversely, speaking informally is easier and maybe, in a motivational interview, you can better express your real motivation and your passion…

I actually don’t know the solution to this dilemma…

Let me know what do you think about!


Here’s my reply:

First of all, congratulations on getting an interview! You’ve cleared the first hurdle (obstacle) to getting a job in investment banking. You’re right to now focus on your strategy for the interview and, in particular, getting the right “tone” for your language.

The whole question of formal / informal language is definitely a key factor in communicating successfully in a business context in English. I have to say that (as with CVs – see my reply regarding the difference between Italian and British / American CVs), there is one big cultural difference between the Italians and the Anglo-Saxons, which is especially true in job interview. This is, basically, that in business Italian people tend to be TOO FORMAL (certainly when you have to speak to someone from Britain or the States. In Italy, of course, it’s perfectly normal to be quite (or even very) formal in a business situation, particularly when you don’t know the other person (which, obviously, is usually the case when you go for a job interview at a large company)).

Being too formal in an Anglo-Saxon business interview is a mistake, and here’s why:

People in business in English-speaking countries are generally more informal and relaxed with people they don’t know. You don’t need to spend a long time establishing a personal relationship with a business counterpart in order to overcome the barrier of formality. While the British are slightly more formal than the Americans, it is still generally the case that in a business setting people try and get to an informal level of communication as soon as possible. Why? It’s simple: because it’s easier to do business with someone without a lot of unnecessary formality. Yes, we wear suits and shake hands. But you will find that pretty much as soon as you sit down with your interviewer and start talking, they will try to establish an informal, one-to-one style of communication.

The reason for spending valuable time (and money) interviewing candidates for a job is that you can only tell so much from someone’s CV: you need to meet them face-to-face and find out what they’re really like. (In fact, many companies nowadays, particularly in younger industries such as web marketing, have abandoned formal interviews completely, deeming (judging) them to be too conventional and artificial. Instead, they ask candidates to form teams and undertake a mini-project, assessing their interaction, leadership potential and problem-solving skills simply by shadowing them as they complete the task assigned.) Nevertheless, formal interviews (particularly in more conservative sectors, such as banking, are still the main way banks and other companies get to know their potential colleagues).

You are quite right to draw (make) a distinction between the specific, technical jargon required and the softer, more personal language you use (especially when you are describing your individual qualities, professional goals and relevant experience from both your professional and social lives). With regard to the technical terms of banking and finance, any weak areas in your knowledge or understanding will be probed (explored) and tested. However, in my 20 years’ experience of teaching people from a wide range of professional backgrounds – as well as graduates applying for their first position – I have to say that the technical area is usually people’s strongest point: having either worked in the finance sector – or having studied the complex theories and statistical / quantitative methods that are required in order to operate successfully in this field – this is not, generally, people’s main problem. (Another point here is that most of the technical financial jargon is used in English anyway and isn’t generally translated.)

The main problem is in finding suitable, natural language to talk about your previous experience; how to bring the bare facts of your CV to life; and to inspire and convince your interviewer that you are a dynamic, capable person who can not only meet the demands of the job, but can also work well alongside colleagues quite often from very diverse backgrounds and nationalities (particularly if you are applying for jobs in London or New York).

While it’s useful to learn the key phrases that you can use in your interview, (e.g. in order to explain why you want this job, or what you consider your strengths and weaknesses to be), the main thing to focus on is PRACTISING your speaking skills so it becomes natural and automatic for you to talk about yourself, your experience and the company (or bank) you have applied to.

Of course, the best way to do this is with a teacher who can explain to you the exact force of each expression and help you with your pronunciation and grammar. But you could also just practice with a friend, each taking it in turns to be the interviewer or the interviewee.

I hope you have found this reply useful. If anyone else has a question regarding jobs, interviews, formal and informal language – or any issue relating to Business English, please start a discussion on the Milan Business English Network. We will do our best to help you!

© Robert Dennis 2011

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Make that call! (Part 1)

18 Apr

Follow these rules for the perfect phone call...

Effective business telephone calls in English are not as difficult as you think, as Robert Dennis explains…

Are you afraid of using the phone in English? Do your hands start to shake when you dial a telephone number and know that you will have to not only speak in English – but also understand the other person? And would you rather send (= Would you prefer to send) an email in order to avoid (evitare) the situation completely? Well, you are not alone. Millions of non-native speakers of English face exactly this situation every day – often at work and in high stress environments, where there is no alternative to talking on the phone.

But using the phone in English doesn’t need to be a nightmare (incubo). If you follow the simple suggestions described below – and learn some of the key business telephone expressions included in section 2 of this article – you will soon find that making phone calls in English is one of the simplest and most direct ways of communicating with your clients, customers or other colleagues.

Steps to making the perfect business phone call

Stop! Take your hand off that receiver (cornetto). Before you pick up the phone… PREPARE! Get yourself ready first – and you will find it much easier to make that important business call. Here’s a checklist of things you can do before you phone someone:

1. Write down the main points that you want to discuss with the person you are going to speak to.

These don’t need to be long notes – in fact, it’s better that you don’t write whole sentences, as you will sound as if you’re reading from a script. (Think of those telephone calls you get from banks and other large companies where an operator sitting in a call centre reads from a long prepared script. It’s like talking to a robot, isn’t it?) Just jot down (write quickly) a few bullet points – single words and short phrases are best. For example:

Contact: Chris Hemming, HKR Communications:

• New designs for brochure

• Printing – how much? When?

• Payment – euros or pounds?

Having these notes in front of you – even if they’re just written on a yellow Post-It™ will help you to focus on what you want you want to say and enable you to structure the conversation.

2. Create the perfect telephoning conditions, if possible.
Get everything ready before you phone. If you’re in a noisy (rumoroso) office, try and find a quiet place where you can make the call. Ideally (perfectly) in a room where you can shut the door to keep background noise to a minimum. Try and choose a time to call when you know the other person will not be in a hurry and has time to speak. (Avoid phoning at awkard (difficult) times, such as early on Monday morning and late on a Friday afternoon. Think about it: would you be happy if someone phoned you during these periods?) Have a pad (blocco noti) and a pen in front of you (with your notes from point 1, above). (You may find it useful to write down words and phrases that the other person says as you are trying to understand them. You can then use these to help form your own replies and questions). If you need to discuss a proposal, design or similar document with the other person, it’s much easier if you both have it on your desk in front of you. You can then refer to the appropriate pages, paragraphs or details that you need to talk about. Send an email with your document attached and ask the other person to print it out or have it open on their PC when you call. Arrange a suitable time to speak so that you can both get ready. (Even for two native speakers, this can save a lot of time.) Spending a short amount of time creating a relaxed, well-ordered phoning environment will be worth the effort (vale la pena) when you are in the middle of the call.

3. Rehearse (provare) the call. You can either do this silently in your head, or (preferably) speaking out loud (ad alta voce). (Of course, you will probably want to do this when no one else is around – or you may find your colleagues are slightly worried (ansiosi) that you are under so much stress that you are talking to people without actually (really) using the telephone!) Think about what you will say, the type of reply you will receive and any possible points or questions that could come up (happen) during the conversation. If you know there are some tricky (difficult) names or technical words that you will have to say, practice them before you ring (phone) the other person. Be ready to spell long or difficult words. (e.g. If you need to tell someone that the project meeting will be in Domodossola, think of words that you can use to spell this out over the phone: “D as in Difficult, O as in Orange, M as in Manchester”, etc.). If you are giving someone a number, such as phone number or account number, get the other person to repeat it back to you. Of course, if there is any really important written information that you need to pass on (give) or receive, tell the other person you will send an email (and don’t forget to send it) – or get them to send one to you.

4. Take a deep breath.
If it’s a really important, make-or-break call, get yourself physically ready. Do some deep breathing exercises before you speak. (Breathe in, count slowly to five, breathe out, repeat two or three times.) You will then find you start the call in a Zen-like state of calm (peaceful relaxation), even if you start to find yourself struggling (lottando) as the call progresses. Have a drink in front of you – when you get stressed your throat (gola) can dry out – which can make you sound even more stressed. Even if it’s only a bottle of mineral water, keep some liquid nearby so you can take a few sips (sorsi) when the other person’s speaking. (A drink’s OK, if you can swallow (inghiottire) quietly, but never eat or chew gum while you’re speaking on the phone – the receiver (microtelefono) amplifies the sound and it’s like talking to a cement-mixer (betoniera) – plus, it can make you more difficult to understand.)

Go ahead and dial

Right, so we’ve looked at how you can prepare for that big call you need to make. Now, let’s consider some survival strategies you can use to help you to help you make it to the end of conversation.

• Put yourself in control

If you phone someone up – using the suggestions in the previous situation – you will automatically be in a better frame of mind than if the other person calls you when you are not ready or in the middle of something else. If it’s a really bad time (for example, the fire alarm has just gone off or your boss (capo) is standing in front of you with a long list of figures that need to be checked (controllato) immediately) ask the other person if you can call them back. (You might even decide to use this as a ruse (stratagemma) so that you can make sure you are 100% (per cent) ready, even if you have to tell a white lie (bugia pietosa), e.g. you’re just about to go into a meeting, but you’ll phone them when you come out.

• Get the other person to slow down

This can be more of a problem if you’re talking to a native speaker: non-native speakers of English know that it is difficult to communicate in a foreign language – particularly on the phone. However, a native English speaker, particularly someone who has little experience of talking to foreigners, may not realise this. Trying to understand a British or American person rabbiting on (parlare a vanvera) at high speed (a tutta velocità) can be incredibly frustrating. Why not tell the person you are speaking to at the beginning of the call that you do speak English, but you sometimes find it a bit tricky (difficult) to understand everything, so it would be a lot easier if they spoke a little (more) slowly. If the other person starts to speed up during the conversation (which is what usually happens), gently remind them to slow down. If you communicate with the same person on a regular basis they will eventually learn to do this automatically when they speak to you, but you need to train (addestrare) them at the beginning.

• Ask the other person to repeat something if you don’t understand

Don’t assume that if you miss (non cogliere) something it probably isn’t that important anyway: it may be the most important thing in the conversation! If you suspect that you haven’t heard something properly – or you simply haven’t understood – ask the other speaker to say it again or to explain. (If you have to do this repeatedly, try and make a joke (scherzo) of it – getting the other person to co-operate is much easier if you keep the tone of the conversation light-hearted (allegro) and friendly. You can still do this and remain professional. Indeed, the more serious or complicated the topic is, the more important it is to make sure that you are both communicating as effectively as possible – and it’s much easier to communicate with someone you like – and who likes you. If you don’t understand a word or phrase because of the way the other person is saying it, try asking them a question like “Sorry, did you say envelopes?” or give them a choice: “Er, sorry, was that thirteen (13) or thirty (30)? I didn’t quite catch what you said.”)

• Check that you both understand and agree on what has been said or decided

It’s surprising how often (even in your native language) you think you’ve said one thing, but the other person has understood something completely different. Even if (or especially if) the two speakers are highly educated, intelligent people, they can get their wires crossed (capirsi male, literally: incrociare le file). At the end of the conversation, summarise what you have agreed or check to see what the other person thinks you have said:

So, are we agreed, them? I’ll send over the designs to your office and you can decide which one you want – and that you’ll confirm that in writing?
– Yes, that’s right.

Focus on action and outcomes (risultati)

You don’t normally phone people up at work just for a chat – and if you do, you probably know the other person very well anyway, so anything important you have to communicate can be done in a fairly relaxed way. Contacting someone you don’t know very well (if at all) in a foreign language, particularly when you are already under stress from other factors (such as deadlines (scadenze) or a bad phone line) demands that you have an effective approach. The key to making a successful business telephone call is to focus on what you want to achieve – on the practical result (or results) of the call. Before you call, ask yourself these questions:

• Why you are making this call?
• Are you talking to the right person?
• What do you want that person to do after the call?
• What do you need to do?
• Does the other person need any more information? Do you?
• Is there any other way you could achieve the same result without making the call?

Why you are making this call?
Be clear about why you are calling. If you are phoning to ask someone whether they have finished the report you need, stick to that topic – don’t be tempted to introduce another point simply because you have that person on the line. If you cannot resist, hint (accennare) that you need to talk about the other topic later and then phone them again on a different occasion, or send an email. (Remember: information is like whisky: its effect is more powerful when it’s neat than when it’s diluted.)

Are you talking to the right person?
If you need a decision, talk to the decision maker whenever possible. Spending an hour explaining your proposal to an assistant may, at best, result in the information being passed on more or less successfully, or the other person simple might explain that they have to ask their boss. Even then, you could find yourself having to repeat everything you said when you finally talk to the person who can give you a definite “yes” or “no”.

What do you want that person to do after the call?
A business telephone call is a little bit like writing a good computer program. You have to have a clear objective – an output or goal – at the beginning, and everything you say during the call should lead (menare) to this objective. If you want someone to send you something, then make sure that you tell them what they have to send, exactly who and where it has to go and when you want it by. Failing to give all the necessary information will only result in delays or unnecessary follow-up calls (or emails) and requests for the name, address or date that wasn’t given during the call.

What do you need to do?
If you tell someone that you will send details of the agreement today, then send details of the agreement today. The longer you wait between hanging up and hitting the send button on your email, the less likely it is that the other person will act promptly (prontamente) and the more likely it is you will have to speak to them again and re-check what you have already agreed.

Does the other person need any more information? Do you?
Put yourself in the position of the person you are communicating with. If they want to contact you later, do they have all your details (phone, mobile (cellulare), address, etc)? Anticipate the other person’s needs or difficulties. Give them your direct number or extension (assuming you do want them to contact you again directly on the phone). If you have referred to a document or web page, send them the exact title or link so they can find it easily.

Is there any other way you could achieve the same result without making the call?
Ask yourself if this is really the best way of communicating with someone. Yes, speaking on the phone is the most direct means of communication, but there can also be many distractions – especially if the other person – or you yourself – are already pre-occupied with another task. A well-written email is often more effective than a phone call – and it also has the advantage that it can be referred to whenever the reader (or you) needs to check the information it contains. You certainly can’t do this (easily) with a phone call, unless you record (and transcribe) all your calls! Quite often the best way to communicate in business is to send someone a clear, well-structured email, follow it up with a brief call (even if it it’s just to check they have received – and read – the email). And then send a short follow-up email (a line or two) confirming in writing the action(s) you have agreed during the call.

Now you’re fully prepared mentally and physically – and with a clear phone strategy – you need some juicy (succoso, vantaggioso) business telephone phrases to make your call as professional and effective as possible. Read the next section, which contains a comprehensive range of useful language to help you achieve your results…

Note: the business telephone phrases in secton 2 of “Make that call!” will soon be available as premium content or to students taking professional business courses with Robert Dennis. (That’s enough free content…)

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Common abbreviations in Business English: e.g., i.e., fyi, CIO, KM… OK?

17 Apr

Someone writing notes on a pad

IMHO abbreviations are very useful

There are thousands of abbreviations in common use, and with the increased use of computer technology, social media (such as chatting) and the proliferation of organisations, legislation and professional jargon, the number of acronyms and shortened forms of words and expressions that you need to know can seem mind-boggling (totally confusing).

Here’s a selection of some of the more useful ones, which I have organised according to topic. Hope you find them useful.

Writing and email
Perhaps the most common – and yet (certainly for Italian people learning English) the most confusing abbreviations – are e.g. and i.e..

E.g. means “for example”. (Why? Well, that’s because it’s really the initials of the Latin expression “exemplii gratia” – for the sake of example.)

I.e. means “that is” (Italian cioè). (Latin again: id est).

When you send someone an email you can “cc” another person or “copy them in” to the email. Cc means “carbon copy”, a reference to old-fashioned carbon paper used to make copies of a letter while writing them on a typewriter. If you don’t want someone to know that you are copying a third person in, then use “bcc” or “blind carbon copy”.

Digital technology, including the internet, has led to the creation of a huge number of abbreviations, especially as typed or texted forms of real-time communication, such as online chat, internet messaging (IM) and texting (SMS) have gained popularity. Some of the more familiar acronyms from these media include:

= For Your Information. This is typically used when you want to send someone an interesting link you have found, but one which doesn’t require a lengthy (long) introduction.

IMHO – In my humble opinion (used when you express a personal opinion that could be considered arrogant or controversial. It shows that you are aware of this implication.)
LOL – Laugh(s) out loud – This type of digital shorthand (steno) for reactions and emotions has developed due to the often colourless or anonymous nature of online chat.
BTW – By the way – indicates a change of subject or the introduction of an incidental fact.
(btw you can find one of the best online collections of online acronyms and jargon – some of them very funny – on, the internet dictionary. One of my favourites is the term used by IT support staff to indicate that there they cannot find a technical fault: PEBCAK – Problem Exists Between Chair and Keyboard.)

Texting, also known as SMS (Short Message Service) requires the writer to compress a lot of information into as small a space as possible. This has led to a modern form of highly-condensed writing, sometimes surprisingly imaginative.
B4 = before
L8r = later
CU = See you
(Which produces: CU l8r = See you later)

Business Acronyms
There are also thousands of TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) used in everyday Business English. Here’s a selection of some of the more useful ones:

People / job titles
CEO = Chief Executive Officer
CFO = Chief Financial Officer
CIO = Chief Information Officer
MD = Managing Director
PRO = Public Relations Officer
Other business acronyms
VAT = Value Added Tax (IVA) (recently raised in the UK form 17.5% to 20%)
P&L = Profit & Loss account / statement (one of the financial statements a company has to produce)
KPI = Key Performance Indicators – measurements used to evaluate how well a team or firm is performing
KM = Knowledge Management – a strategic approach to insights undertaken by companies
RRP = Recommended Retail Price – the price customers should pay suggested by the manufacturer

I hope you find these abbreviations useful. If anyone would like to know the meaning of other common business acronyms – or if you have found an acronym that you want to share with otherpeople, visit the Milan Business English Network on Facebook or add a comment here.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

British English vs American English

17 Apr

Two countries divided by a common language?

It is often said that Britain and America are two nations divided by a common language. Yes, we both speak English: but sometimes there seem to be more differences than similarities between the way the language is used on either side of the Atlantic.

Trousers or pants?
One of the most common areas of confusion is in the words we use for clothes. For example, an Englishman wears trousers, while an American wears pants. In Britain ‘pants’ are what you wear under your trousers, but American men wear shorts. But just to make things really confusing, ‘shorts’ are what the English wear when they play sport, while in the US people wear short pants.

Just as confusing is what you wear to work. In Britain an executive wears a jacket; but in America this would be called a coat. Now, an English person also wears a coat – but this is the long garment you wear over your suit in the winter. Some men wear a waistcoat in Britain (a “jacket” without sleeves) under their jacket; Americans wear a vest. As you can see, lot of the confusion comes from the fact that the same words are used on both sides of the Atlantic with different meanings.

Chips with everything

Food words can cause a lot of problems as well. The English, as everyone knows, enjoy eating fish and chips. But if you ask for chips in America you will get thin slices of potato fried in oil in a bag, which we call crisps. To get (British) chips in the United States you should ask for fries (or French fries).Our biscuits are called cookies in America, and what we call jam (preserved fruit you put on bread) is jelly in the US. (Our ‘jelly’ is American jello – a wobbly dessert often served at children’s parties).

Drive my car (or automobile)
Americans have two words for a car: the word ‘car’ itself (which we use) and the rather grand-sounding automobile which is hardly ever used here. (An old-fashioned word for car in Britain is motor-car, but no American would use this). If you want to look at the engine of the car you need to open the bonnet (at the front); an American opens the hood. At the back there is the boot (English) or the trunk (American) where you put your luggage. And if you want to go anywhere you need to put petrol in your car here in Britain, while “over there” in the States you need gas (or gasoline).

The first thing to note about buildings in the US and the UK is that American buildings are one floor shorter than British ones. (Or to be more precise, our ground floor is their first floor, our first floor is their second floor, etc). English people who live in the city usually have a flat; the equivalent in the States is an apartment. To reach your flat / apartment you might climb the stairs – but it’s quicker if you take the lift (GB) or the elevator (US). Oh – and if you need to “answer the call of nature”, ask your host for the toilet (UK) or the bathroom (US). (This can be quite confusing for Brits, as it sometimes sounds like their American guests want to take a bath. It gets even more confusing when Americans ask for the rest room – which is just another way of avoiding saying the word ‘toilet’, which many Americans find very embarrassing).

Just seen or just saw?

Most of the differences between British and American English are differences of vocabulary. There are, however, some small but important grammatical differences as well. The main one is that while an English person would say, “I have just seen him” (present perfect), an American can say, “I just saw him” (past simple). (If you say this in a British English class, your teacher will probably correct you – because we don’t use the past simple with words like just and already – we use the present perfect.

How do you spell that?

There are also some important spelling differences. Some nouns that end in –our in British English (e.g. colour, honour, humour, labour, etc) lose the ‘u’ in American English: color, honor, humor, labor. Travelling in Britain is traveling (with one ‘l’) in America. You will also find that some verbs ending in –ise in British English (e.g. specialise) nearly always end in –ize in American English (specialize). (Although you can spell specialize with a ‘z’ in British English as well).

A game of two halves

Both Britons and Americans have a game called football. Our game (played by nearly every country in the world) uses a round ball and you kick the ball into a net. In America this is called soccer. American football is more like rugby, with an oval-shaped ball that you can touch with your hand. While rugby has yet to make any impact in America (probably because American football is so well-established), soccer is becoming increasingly popular (especially since David Beckham joined LA Galaxy). Soccer in America is seen mainly as a game for children (who are often taken to matches by soccer moms – middle class women with children). A significant cultural difference between our two countries is that the concept of the football hooligan doesn’t yet exist in the US.

Global language

As you can see, there are quite a few differences between British and American English – and with more new words being added to the language almost every day, the list of differences keeps growing. Of course, British English is like every other language in the world since many American English expressions (e.g. coffee-shop rather than café, and movie as an alternative to the more British film) are becoming standardised in the language. (Or should that be ’standardized’?)

© Robert Dennis 2007

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS